Permanence of Place

Permanence of Place

by Anya Arthen

Crisp is the air
breathtaking,
the colors of fall.
Birds in flight high above the treetops.
These are not the geese.
Small wings beat
flutter, flutter, soar
they disappear out of view.

The sun starts to play on the color speckled leaves. It is taking its time to cross over the horizon and then the rooftops of the neighboring homes.
We are a spiral winding. 

Permanence of place.
There is something special about stepping outside and sitting with the same trees, the same blades of grass, the same earth, Every Day. 
I’ve known this conceptually.
In fact I’ve been encouraged to build these connections by various teachers of my spiritual path.
Logically, conceptually, I understood. 
But, I did not truly feel it, until the slowing down of the world brought on by a pandemic forced me to find respite in place.
So I would venture out, grateful for the privilege of the slice of nature that surrounds me. I would sit observing, breathing, being, with the trees, the grasses, birds and rodents, rocks and soil, with dew, frost, rain, and sky.
And today I sit here once more, feeling a deep sense of connection, reverence, and awe.

Photo by Anya Arthen

There is a familiarity between me and this place. One that could only be created by being together with intention – with breath, awareness and gratitude. 

Permanence of place.
In the ever changing world of an ever changing life my soul holds the imprints of the wilderness I have had the pleasure to embrace. 

Thick brambled woods, heron standing in a swampy, mucky pond. Fields of wild cornflowers, bell flowers, daisies, so tall I could get lost in them. Innocence. 

Next came the ocean, the vastest body of water I have ever encountered.
From the shores I played on you could see an unreachable island, a smooth, rounded, out-jutting — perhaps the back of an ancient creature dreaming.
The full moon would rise out of the ocean so large you could almost touch her, sending her reflection on gentle waves out to shore.

The ocean was my growing up, it was playfulness and lust, it was pleasure and laughter.
Though I didn’t know it in these words at that time, the ocean was a place of release. It is where I would turn, to transform deep anger or sadness. Walking up and down the shores along the path where salty water barely touched the sand, ever shifting with the coming and going tide. 

And now I am back in fields and forests and with trees, working together to build permanence of place.
Place, where I — where we — can live with intention.
Place, where one day I hope to see the tree branches shake with the laughter of children.
Place.
Permanence of place.
As permanent as anything in this world can ever be.
A place to root my being to.
A place to spiral through time with.

You can find more of Anya’s writing on EarthSpirit Voices by clicking her name below. You can learn more about her work as a naturopath at Earthen Medicine.

Loving the land, leaving the land

Loving the land, leaving the land

This post is by Alison Mee, who has been part of the EarthSpirit community since 1999.  She lives near Harpers Ferry in West Virginia.

photo by Alison Mee

photo by Alison Mee

A year ago, as events in our lives unfolded, both logic and intuition told my husband and I that we needed to pick up and move our family from our home of 18 years, to somewhere new.    We felt about as sure as we could be, that the move was right for us, that we were moving toward greater joy.   But that didn’t make it easy for me to leave the land.

I had allowed myself to fall in love with the land on which I lived.   I had connected to it as deeply as I knew how.    One summer, I decided that every single solitary day, I would eat something from my land.   I started with the chives and the fresh onion grass of spring.   Then, with my relatively meager gardening skills, I grew some vegetables, and brought snap peas with me when I traveled, keeping them carefully and eating one every day.    By autumn’s figs, I was feeling the land as part of myself.

I went through retreats, of staying on that land for a week or so at a time, spending time outdoors, but not going beyond that piece of land.     I composted the story of my life, into the soil:  apple wood from the home where I grew up, branches from the woods behind my grandmother’s house, flowers from funerals and weddings.   The first time we placed each of my children’s feet on the earth, it was there.   I brought bits of the land — soil, moss, pine needles — with me when away from home.

How could I leave?    I could leave, I found, with love, appreciation, and intention.

As soon as we knew we were going to be selling the property, we had a family ritual with the land.     We thanked it for it’s support of our family, and rejoiced in all the great years we’ve had there.   Then, I opened up the thicket, the space that I had set aside some years ago to be mostly free from human intervention.   I wouldn’t be protecting it in the same way anymore.   Our relationship would be changing.

Then I sought to use my connection to the spirit of the land where I had been living, including the local river, to reach out to the land I was moving to, to help me find my correct path.    Somewhere, I knew, was a place that could give me what I was needing, and likewise, could need me.     I wanted to let the land  reach out to me, as I searched for it.

When we were looking for our new home, I paid as much attention to the land as I did to the houses.     We explored all over the county, and I smelled the dirt.   At first I was shy and kept trying to do it when the realtor wasn’t looking, but eventually I got used to his attentiveness and he got used to the fact that I spent more time on the land than in the house.   I stopped worrying about his opinion of me.   Finding the right land was more important to me than not weirding out the realtor.

If I weren’t going by smell, I’ve since learned that I could have gone by field guide maps.    It turns out that what smelled so good to me was biodiversity.   Where we live now has a huge variety of plants and animals.

Now that I’m here, I’m falling in love again.    Instead of plowing in with what I think should be here, I’m waiting and letting the woods show me their paths.    I’m watching to see what’s going on.   Who has been living here before me?    What needs to be done?   What’s been waiting for me?   What would rather be left alone?

I bring water from my old home, to my new home.     And earth.   And sap from the white pine which used to be my meditation spot.    If I were moving very far, I might worry about bringing non-indigenous plants, insects or microorganisms.    But it would still be acceptable, generally, to bring vegetables grown in one home, and then compost them into the land in the new home.    And in this way I’m bringing the story of my life forward, weaving together the connections.

Now it is spring, and I am seeing the emergence of new flowers, hearing new birds, connecting deeper with the spirit of this land.

And tasting the sweetest onion grass in the world.     I’m home again.